Is ZANU PF Trying To Justify Another Gukurahundi By Linking Police Helmets To MDC As They Did With Fake Arms Discoveries To PF ZAPU?
15 October 2019
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Gukurahundi stunt

Paul Nyathi|The ruling ZANU PF party has gone to the mountains claiming that opposition MDC has been planning a major insurgency against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s failing government this after over 200 anti riot police helmets were found at a private building across the opposition party’s headquarters in Harare.

Police shockingly expressed ignorance of the huge loot of their own equipment.

The whole saga raises fears that ZANU PF might be going back to its old ways where it effected a brutal one sided war against then powerful opposition PF ZAPU led by Joshua Nkomo after claiming that the opposition party was hiding arms of war meant to destabilise the then Robert Mugabe government.

According to the Zanu-PF narrative of Zimbabwe’s post-independence history, the discovery of dozens of arms caches in early 1982 was the major event that led to the deployment of a “crack force” of the army – the Gukurahundi – in Matabeleland during 1983.

A year later, Zanu announced dramatically that Zapu and its leader, Joshua Nkomo, were at it. They had been caught red-handed, caching arms on strategically located properties as part of an elaborate coup plot.

The reality was different. The only secret plan in play was Zanu’s, and the “crisis” was a myth, an event staged by Mugabe as part of his bid for absolute power.

On 6 February 1982, Emmerson Mnangagwa convened a press conference in Bulawayo, telling journalists gravely that he felt “very low” about a statement he had to make: the government had discovered around 60 arms caches in Matabeleland, half of them at Gwaai, the main base of Zapu’s military wing, Zipra, and another 30 at a farm owned by a company connected with Zapu.

Over the next 10 days, a torrent of reports in the official media sought to portray Zanu-PF as having thwarted a colossal and imminent threat to state security.

The reports repeatedly emphasised the scale of the caches, and almost daily there were stories of new finds by the police, army and Central Intelligence Organisation.

Mugabe raged against “these people” who were “planning to overthrow and take over the government”. Zapu and “other elements who wanted to start a civil war … would be dealt with”.

As for Nkomo, he was like a “cobra in the house” – the “only way to deal effectively with a snake is to strike and destroy its head …

Nkomo and three of his party colleagues were dismissed from cabinet and – in an operation personally directed by Mugabe and Mnangagwa – senior members of Zipra and Zapu’s former intelligence wing were arrested. The government of national unity that Mugabe had created in April 1980 was practically dead from this point. (It was nominally revived in late 1987, though this second iteration was more a consequence of mass murder and political rape than it was a matter of unity.)

The arms caches “crisis” was undoubtedly a critical juncture in Zimbabwe’s turbulent early years, with the already dire relationship between Zanu and Zapu plunging yet further, accelerating towards the abyss.

Others condemn the indiscriminate violence wrought by the Gukurahundi – and lament the gigantic, festering wound it has bequeathed to the nation – but blame Zapu for producing (or contributing to) a situation in which Zanu was bound to react.

The problem with this view is that it is founded not on the truth but on Zanu-PF propaganda.

Many were fooled by the subsequent media blitz, including the South Africans. In a demonstration that the apartheid regime had little to do with the affair, South African intelligence assessments reflected surprise and deemed the Zimbabwean government’s statements to be largely accurate.

However, others who knew more about the political context and the disarmament process concluded that the crisis was a manipulation by Zanu-PF.

Mugabe himself put the matter beyond doubt a few weeks later when he told the visiting British foreign secretary, Peter Carrington, that “the last straw … had come when he mentioned his ideas regarding a one-party state to Nkomo, who refused even to talk about them”.

It was, then, not a further act of subversion by Nkomo that contributed to the unleashing of the Gukurahundi a year later, but his refusal to come to Mugabe on bended knee, seeking “unity” on Zanu’s terms.

The arms caches crisis was a cynical stunt, nothing more. As was so often the case during Zimbabwe’s early years, the most accurate guide to reality was to be found in turning Zanu-PF propaganda on its head.

Years later, well experienced Mnangagwa appears to be taking exactly the same lane he took with his erstwhile mentor Mugabe and could very well be taking the route to unleash another Gukurahundi blaming the non violent and non militant MDC for the possession of the police equipment.